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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mantras and Modern Science

The poorna huti of the seven-day long yagnam conducted in the Poorna Chandra auditorium in Prasanthi Nilayam as part of the Dasara celebrations happened, I should say gloriously, yesterday morning (Oct 24, 2012); the hall was overflowing and so too were emotions of thousands who had gathered to be touched by those vibrations.

Frankly for me, being in that ambience, sitting inside this huge hall suffused, or rather charged, with those riveting mantras was quite an uplifting experience. Just like the joy of receiving a beautiful little toddler's innocent smile can never be expressed enough through literature or the fragrance of a jasmine described in words or the peace of being seated in front of the Samadhi in Prasanthi measured by any complex algorithms, the sublime and subtle yet potent feeling of being present in the vicinity of this vedic sacrifice cannot be articulated to your heart's content.

How can lighting a fire and generously pouring ghee into it contribute to world peace? Many may think.

Imagine a tribal from the Amazon forest seeing a television box for the first time in his life and someone tells him that in that man-made contraption he is actually watching something which is happening thousands of miles away. The aboriginal would either think this is definitely a miracle or pure rubbish.

Same with the mantras. At times just because we do not apparently see or know as of now how these sacred hymns work or how can they really contribute to our welfare or society's well-being or Nature's productivity, we too like this tribal may tend to think this is some mumbo-jumbo going on from centuries and we just have to carry it forward, sometimes with little choice, thinking that this is not going to sustain for long in these modern times.

The second alternative – considering this as a miracle, something which is doing wonders beyond our understanding. But this might sound especially to some of the current generation quite preposterous.

Referring to this, Baba in a discourse in 1992, said, “Is it unbelievable that Krishna was able to similarly appear in the homes of gopikas simultaneously? If a yantra (machine like TV) could achieve such a result, how much more power should be attributed to Mantra? The electromagnetic waves in the atmosphere can preserve sounds and forms for all time. The power of the Spirit is incredible.”

[If you like Mathematics, the Fibonacci sequence of numbers which explain the beautiful design of the sunflower or the fins of a dolphin or the count of bones on our fingers or even the cosmic artwork of a spiral galaxy – all of this is connected to the Gayathri Mantra; just like this hymn has 24 principal syllables, the compressed fibonacci sequence too gives you an infinitely repeating sequence of 24. It explains the number 108 too which is considered sacred, but that's the topic for another blog].

Other day I met an old friend who said the Gayathri Mantra in the recent past has saved him from atleast 15 accidents, minor and major, in the busy streets of Bangalore.

Ranganath Raju, an alumnus of Baba's university, prayed to Baba intensely to give him a simpler explanation of the Gayathri Mantra and Baba in his dream said:

“It simply means – O God! Please bless me with darshan, sparshan and sambhasan or equivalent of this. Please Lord, grant me this opportunity and illumine my intellect.”

And he says after he received this 'secret' from Baba, he tried it and it worked almost every time. Even after graduating from Baba's university, whenever he used to come to Prasanthi, he would sit in the Sai Kulwant Hall and begin chanting this mantra and more often than not, Swami would suddenly notice him and start a conversation.

Hari Shankar, who now works in the office of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, one day started chanting this Mantra sitting in the Sai Kulwant Hall hoping and praying that as he finished doing this 108 times Baba should in some way bless him, and as he recited the 108th time, Baba came out of the interview room, and said, “Aye boy, what's your name?”

The beauty of some of the things of our ancient culture is that they are inexplicable and that’s why so fascinating!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Did You Know This About The Gayathri?

J. B. S. Haldane was a British-born geneticist and evolutionary biologist who is known for his contribution to human genetics. While intellectually he was a thorough scientist who strongly advocated quantitative study of biology, at heart he was a socialist. 

In fact at one point he got so disappointed with the imperialistic ways of the British Government that he left that country, came to India and even became an Indian citizen. India according to him is the “closest approximation to the Free World.”

But that is not the reason why I am writing about him. There is something else he has said about a facet of Indian culture which captured my attention, and that pertains to a vital Vedic verse. "The Gayatri Mantra should be carved on the doors of every laboratory of the world" he wrote.

One prayer that promotes the acquisition of Divine Power is the Gayathri Mantra,” Baba declared in a discourse on February 25 1965.

And yesterday I met Captain Yasas, a former Indian Air Force pilot, who is nearly 70 years old. He was diagnosed with terrible deficiency of Vitamin D (the count was 4 while it should be 30), and post a few months of chanting the Gayathri Mantra regularly, his count has increased to 24, and all the while he has been fit as a fiddle working 16 hrs everyday.

In January 2011 I had spoken to a gentleman from Venezuela who from being a small-time salesman has today risen to the position of being the private secretary to the Foreign Minister of Venezuela. His name is Homar Farhon Viera Rodriquez. Ask him how he made it and he says, “The Gayathri Mantra!” (You can listen to the entire interview here).

Dr. Srinivas Rao, from Belthur, Bangalore, was struggling to get his thesis for Ph. D reviewed and approved for 18 months with no success. Someone told him why don't you start chanting the Gayathri Mantra. He began and in the next 15 days he was a doctorate.

The most fascinating story I heard about the power of this Mantra is this – even though this belongs to the pre-independence era it is really revealing.

To the village Garrepalli (Karimnagar district of AP) came a new Tahsildar. As he stepped into his office he noticed a disgusting scene. With utter disrespect his assistant was sitting on the chair with his legs placed on his table. No one in that office for years dared to question the acts of this individual because it was known that he was a dangerous man adept in black magic.

When the new officer accosted and threatened this man saying if he did not change his behaviour he would certainly fire him, this is the reply he got: “You will not be alive tomorrow to come to this office, let alone sacking me.”

And that night a saint who was highly revered and respected by the villagers saw this mysterious sight:

An ugly and grotesque looking lady tried to storm into the residence of the new Tahsildar but in vain. 

At every door and window of the house this evil-looking being was stopped by a resplendent little girl. When repeated attempts to enter inside failed, the demoness retreated but now her anger, fury and speed was double than before.

The next morning the saint narrated this episode to the new officer and finally asked, “Do you chant the Gayathri Mantra?” and the Tahsildar said, “It has been my practise to chant this hymn 1008 times everyday for many years.” 

“Then that explains everything,” said the saint, “Mother Gayathri is zealously protecting you.”

When the Tehsildar went to his office that day, news was rife that the assistant had mysteriously died the previous night. “That is because the malicious being he had created had to take a life to satiate herself and she had no other option,” explained the saint.

Till this day, the residence of this Tehsildar is where a place of worship stands, for it is here that Mother Gayathri had chosen to manifest herself.

I heard this from Ranganatha Raju, an alumnus of Baba's University, whose grandfather lived in Garrepalli for decades and knew all about this account in great detail.

If you chant the Gayathri Mantra you do not need to chant any other devotional or vedic hymn... it will bestow on you all power and talents,” Baba said on August 23, 1995.

And now every other day I meet people who have been saved or promoted or awarded or cured, thanks to this powerful hymn.

Some of them in fact have done some interesting experiments with this Vedic verse. More about it in future posts. Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts or experiences on this, please do share.

The inspiration for this blog was this ceremony of more than 600 young children being blessed with their sacred thread ceremony yesterday (Sep 27, 2012). What a glorious event it was in this Divine hamlet of Prasanthi!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Other 9/11s

The South and North Towers of WTC came down, the Pentagon was attacked, 3000 people lost their lives, victims came from 90 countries, the fire at Ground Zero burned for 99 days, prohibited items on aircraft cabins increased to 65 from 30... we know the gruesome tale of 9/11 2001 and its appalling aftermath.

This 9/11 understandably has left an unpleasant and hard-to-erase mark on collective consciousness of mankind.

Interestingly however I discovered that history has gifted us really momentous and indeed glorious 9/11s – events that in a manner of sorts did shake the world, but shook it not to plunge it into depths of deep depression like it happened in 2001 but to raise it to exalted heights of renewed inspiration.

Swami Vivekananda, the powerhouse of a patriotic saint, stunned the packed hall in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago with his electrifying eloquence, overwhelming warmth and overpowering wisdom on this day. It was 9/11 1893.

We know how the jam-packed audience of 7000 American men and women continued to applause unceasingly for two full minutes when this Oracle from the East rose to the rostrum and said, “Brothers and Sisters of America”. That of course was the beginning but what he said after that on this day was indeed prophetic.

Among other things, at one point towards the end of this historic address, he says:

Sectarianism, bigotry, and it's horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful Earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.”

When I reflected on this I said to myself “Isn't this what 9/11 2001 all about?”

In fact, even though 3000 people lost their lives on September 11, 2001, civilian deaths due to the so-called 'War on Terror' has taken away atleast 14,000 to 120000 lives every year since 2001 in various countries from Iraq, Afganistan and Pakistan to countries in Africa and Middle East.

And the US government in the last decade has spent 3.2 to 4 trillion dollars on war and war-related expenditure. And the count is still on.... even as the economy of this country struggles to find its ground.

If only 9/11 1893 was accorded a little more genuine respect than mere enthusiastic applause, then probably the world could have been saved from a 9/11 2001 and its terrible aftermath.

R K Karanjia's Book
Again, as if to emphasise this utter futility of fighting hate with artillery, history has it that Gandhiji started his Satyagraha movement in South Africa on September 11. This was 9/11 1906!

And here is the cherry on the top. R K Karanzia, the eminent journalist who had first published an article deriding Bhagawan in his magazine Blitz, came to Swami, had the opportunity to not only see Him but also interview Him and later published this revealing conversation in his periodical with the title “God is an Indian”. This happened on September 11, 1976!

Karanjia asks Bhagawan if there would again be another massive Mahabharata-type of war to get rid of the evil forces, and Swami replies:

It is to prevent such a catastrophe that this Avathar has come....”

What is the solution to the escalating conflict between wealth and power on one side and poverty and weakness on the other?” he asks again.

And Swami says, “This barrier can be broken by creating a feeling of equality and oneness between the rich and the poor... When man realises his essential Divinity, he will acquire equal-mindedness towards all beings... This fundamental oneness has to be made manifest through the persuasive expanding power of love.”

Sounds philosophical, but isn't this profoundly practical too!

If any of these previous 9/11s (from 1893 to 1906 to 1976) had received even one-hundredth of the attention that 9/11 2001 received, then probably as Swami Vivekananda said “human society would be far more advanced than it is now” in true sense of this statement.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Deep Sorrow and Shallow Solace of April 26, 2011

(I started writing this on April 27, 2012 but found time to complete it only on April 29)

Yesterday was April 26 and it brought back heart-wrenching memories. I remember sitting beside Bhagawan's crown of hair as He lay there in disturbingly deep silence. Will He end it now? When is the drama going to move on to the next scene which is bound to be exhilarating? What a day it was in Prasanthi Nilayam in the July of 1963 when Swami in an instant shook off the debilitating malady that had crippled His body for a week! It was as if every devotee was born anew. When is the Lord going to replay that scintillating sequence? And imagine how fantabulous that moment would be! Million times thrilling than even Lingodbhavam.

I waited impatiently and prayed piteously as I gazed at His pure face. Will the eyes open now? Did His toes move a bit? Is He about to gesture something with His right hand? Will the much-awaited, much-prayed and much-pined-for revelation happen now?

As I sat there eagerly anticipating for that mother of all miracles to happen, I heard murmurs about the impending visit of the Prime Minister of India. He along with many other dignitaries from Delhi were to come that evening to pay their final homage.

“Now it is going too far,” I said to myself. “Is Swami still going to continue with the drama?.... Or, is this the reality!?”

My body shook with fear and piercing grief. I did not want to believe this but... did I have an option?...

I had no interest in who was coming to seeing Him. How does it matter? If Swami is really not going to be with us again, if He is truly not going to stop this mysterious play, then I am better off not being in Mandir, I said to myself.

I had in my hand an incense stick and as I noticed how this thin strand of wood slowly and steadily destroyed itself, little by little to make the lives of those around it fragrant, I said to myself “there is no use of me idly sitting here when my Lord has systematically sacrificed every bit of Himself to make my life and the lives of millions like me worthwhile.”

I walked out of Sai Kulwant Hall into the streets of Puttaparthi. The endearing scenes of caring and moving instances of devotion that I witnessed that day remains evergreen in memory. It was as if love was virtually flowing in the streets of this holy hamlet. Everyone was out to help the other. 

If there was a shopkeeper doling out cookies to everyone standing in that never-ending serpentine queue, there was another generously handing out butter milk in plastic tumblers to anyone who was thirsty. The third was a middle-aged Mohammedan with the characteristic white cap on, who along with his sweet daughter was gladly serving spiced rice to every pilgrim standing in the rows. 

Suddenly a dynamic man met me and lovingly invited me to go along with him; he wanted to show me something. Once I reached his house I saw how he had created a big cooking area beside his home where food was being prepared continuously. I was moved. I took a few pictures and thanked him for his love. 

As I continued to walk I noticed a youngster panting for breath; I took him out of the queue, arranged a place where he could rest and then promised him that I will be back soon with some medicines.

I had actually walked far beyond the Hanuman temple, little beyond the area where the usual Saturday vegetable market happens. My hunt for a medical shop brought me all the way almost to the Gopuram gate as except Appollo Pharma no other shop was open that day. I ran back to him having procured the tablets. Fortunately he was still there in the same location and was delighted to receive the pills. I moved on.

The queue did not seem to have an end. People were sad, dejected, tired and restless too. The PM's visit had only added to their woes; the lines had stopped moving for quiet a while. Many asked me, “Can we have darshan? We have come from so far...”, “When are they going to close Mandir? Can I see Swami today?” and so on. Softly and sweetly I assured them that each one was definitely going to see their beloved Swami. 

Then I noticed some very senior members of the Sri Sathya Sai Trust, Kerala having a tough time in the queue. They were people whom I have been seeing for years in Mandir verandah. I felt sorry for them. “Come with me please,” I said to them and escorted them to Mandir through some short-cuts. Somehow everywhere there was an obstacle the police were very cooperative with me. It took half an hour to drop them inside Mandir premises through Ganesh gate but it was worth it. I was satisfied.

I returned to the streets and corners of Puttaparthi. And then I saw one scene which is ever fresh in my memory. There were a group of Sai Youth from Andhra who had set up a temporary kitchen and were serving fried rice and curd rice, and there was this boy shouting at the top of his voice, with the entire energy of his vocal chords, pleading people to have Swami's prasadam. His passion to see that no one went hungry because of grief or unavailability or any other reason moved me to bits. 

In every lane and bylane, home and hearth, shop and godown, there was this overpowering stream of camaraderie and kindness. Even though my heart sank with sorrow whenever I thought of Swami, I consoled myself saying, “At least I am doing what Swami would have liked me to do – helping someone in need and documenting this touching saga of Puttaparthi. The only way I can mitigate my sorrow to a little extent atleast is by service... That is what His life was all about and that is what my life should also be about...”

And the next day when the final ceremonies of His body were done I cried and cried copiously.

But whenever the tears stopped I remembered the incense sticks. Even now whenever grief grips me those thin fragrance-exuding martyrs inspire me. Life, they say, is worth living when it is lived for others just like my Swami did, smilingly year after year for more than eight decades. We can then shine as sparks of His love and our lives too would become sublime and serene, fragrant and vibrant.